Police officers in riot gear hold a line in St. Louis on Sunday as they watch demonstrators protest the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers, both 18 years old. AFP/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS—Thousands gathered in this Midwest city shaken by recent shootings of young black men by white police officers, as organizers sought to keep a spotlight on their concerns and pressure on local officials.

The weekend’s activism included a downtown march, a hip hop concert, church services and late-night civil disobedience that led to more than a dozen arrests. A Sunday service at Epiphany United Church of Christ included visitors from as far away as Uganda and others from Florida, New York and nearby neighborhoods, all gathering to pay tribute to 18-year old Michael Brown.

His Aug. 9 death in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson sparked weeks of protests, some of which ended in violent clashes with the city’s police department.

“There’s a time for rage and a time for rioting,” said Angie O’Gorman, a parishioner who led the day’s service. “It is time for us to go into the streets.”

The service was part of a four-day series of events, dubbed Ferguson October, that an organizing body of the same name hoped would draw large crowds to the city for demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience through Monday.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown St. Louis to protest the deaths of Mr. Brown and Vonderrit Myers, a black 18-year-old who was killed by an off-duty white officer in St. Louis’s Shaw neighborhood last week.

While the march was peaceful, police officers early Sunday arrested 17 people for “unlawful assembly” in the parking lot at a QuikTrip gas station, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

Mervyn Marcano, a spokesman for Ferguson October, said more than 100 protesters staged a nonviolent sit-in at the gas station near the site where Mr. Myers was killed, and were met with a “disproportionately excessive” response, including more than 200 police officers, many dressed in riot gear, who used mace on the crowd.

Col. Sam Dotson, St. Louis’s police chief, estimated the number of protesters at more than 200, and said arrests were made and pepper spray used after multiple warnings that demonstrators would be detained because they had caused the convenience store to close and the employees to be afraid. “That’s when the line was crossed,” Col. Dotson said.

Back at Epiphany United, which is housing protesters from out of town, Lewuga Benson, a 23-year old student from Buffalo, N.Y., said he “came to support the people here.” He said he rode a Greyhound bus 17 hours to Missouri because he “thought it was important to come in solidarity and show that we’re brothers and we all want the same things: peace, equality and a safe place to live.”

Sunday’s crowd also included a rabbi and a minister, and several children.

“There’s something about Michael Brown’s murder that just catalyzed people,” Ms. O’Gorman said. “When a moment like that comes along you drop everything and build on it.”

Hip hop artists nationwide also gathered to perform on Sunday, and activist Cornel West was set to speak in the evening.

Ferguson October organizers said further acts of nonviolent civil disobedience are planned through Monday.

Weekend events began Friday with a protest outside St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch ’s office, where they renewed calls for officer Darren Wilson to be charged in Mr. Brown’s death. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.

In the Myers case, police said the teen had an altercation with the officer Wednesday before fleeing. The suspect allegedly fired three shots at the officer, who responded with 17 rounds, killing Mr. Myers, police said. Mr. Myers’s family has said the teen was unarmed and only holding a sandwich. Police said they recovered the pistol allegedly used by Mr. Myers at the scene.

At the time of the shooting, the teen was under house arrest and GPS monitoring while he awaited trial on felony gun-possession charges, court documents show. The officer, who hasn’t been named, is on administrative leave.

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